Powerful Practices to Help You Adapt to Change: Part 2

It’s clear that a strong ability to adapt to unexpected change is a must for every individual and organization. We’ve found four powerful practices that can help people as well as companies become more change-adaptive. I wrote about the first two practices—Mindfulness and Curiosity—in my last blog post. Today, I’ll cover the third and fourth: Courage and Resilience.

The Third Powerful Practice: Courage

When faced with monumental change, responding with courage doesn’t mean you will instantly feel confident and in control of what’s happening. You probably won’t say, “I’m just going to power through this change even though I don’t have a clue about what’s going on.” No, this kind of courage is about having the strength to speak up for yourself in the face of uncertainty.

It requires courage to speak up and share your ideas and concerns about a proposed change. It also takes courage to be open to others’ perspectives and rationale for change. People who are courageous stand up for themselves and take action that helps them feel more optimistic, more included, and less victimized by change.

Consider speaking up:

  • If you believe you know things the change leaders don’t know
  • If you are aware of obstacles that could derail the change
  • If you think your ideas might make the change better
  • If you have experience or expertise to share

Don’t forget that you also demonstrate courage when you ask for what you need. Everyone needs some support during a change—and asking for support, reassurance, or mentoring takes courage. Take a moment to pause and reflect: “What do I need to be able to adapt to this change?” “Who should I ask to help me?” and “How should I go about asking for support?” 

Thinking of yourself as courageous can give you options and energy to act, not just react. It can help you feel as if the change is happening with you, not to you. And that’s a great position of strength.

The Fourth Powerful Practice: Resilience

If 2020 didn’t teach us resilience, nothing will! People who are resilient in the face of change are able to handle some discomfort and to demonstrate resolve in seeing things through. Change-adaptive people who are resilient are confident in their ability to adapt to change. They are able to bounce back and stay the course. They believe when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

People with resilience know their strengths and they lean on those things. When you’re experiencing a change, remind yourself of the ways you are really strong. What do you bring to the table? Now look at the people around you. What do you know about their strengths that you can remind them of?

Resilient people typically focus their energy on what they can control and let go of what they can’t control. For example, I don’t watch the news very often. I keep up enough to stay informed, but most of it focuses on things I don’t have any control over. I am more resilient when I can stay focused on things I can control.

Finally, don’t forget the famous phrase: This too shall pass. Time goes by and softens the hard times we go through. Before we know it, months or years have passed and when we look back, that problem is over, we figured out a way to solve it, or maybe we just got through it together.

So choose to be a change-adaptive person who practices mindfulness, demonstrates curiosity, speaks up with courage, and follows through with resilience.

  • Mindfulness: Acknowledge and regulate your emotions.
  • Curiosity: Seek information and look for opportunities to help you move toward the change.
  • Courage: Share your concerns, contribute your ideas, and ask for the support you need.
  • Resilience: Acknowledge your strengths and focus your energy on things you can control.

Change is a fact of life. The more change-adaptive we are in these four areas, the better we will be able to deal with each change that comes our way.

Powerful Practices to Help You Adapt to Change: Part 1

If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that change pushes us out of our comfort zone. When the change is significant it can disrupt our peace of mind, making us defensive, close-minded, and anxious.

To thrive in an increasingly unpredictable world, we need to develop better responses to change and perhaps even learn to embrace it. Over the next couple of blogs, I’ll be focusing on four powerful practices that can help you adapt to change.

The First Powerful Practice: Mindfulness

We hear a lot about mindfulness these days. But what is it, exactly?

Mindfulness is making the choice to slow down and notice what you’re thinking and feeling—without judging your thoughts and feelings.

For example, suppose you’ve received news that your company is going to be reorganized and your department is going to be merged with another. For many people, this would trigger a negative feeling like fear or anxiety. It also might trigger some negative self-talk, such as, “Oh no, my job will probably be eliminated.” Notice that in this example, you have a negative feeling (fear/anxiety) followed by a negative judgment (“I’m going to lose my job.”) That’s a double negative!

A mindful approach to hearing about this change would be to pause, take a deep breath, and observe your feelings and thoughts.  Your self-talk might go something like this: “Oh look, I’m feeling fearful and anxious right now. Isn’t that interesting?”  You might notice the thought about losing your job, but you would recognize it as just that—a thought, not reality. You would not attach meaning to it. You would simply witness, rather than judge, these feelings and thoughts.

So, how does this witnessing consciousness help you deal with change? By becoming more aware of what is taking place—both inside and outside of yourself—you can respond to uncertainty with acceptance. Once you acknowledge and accept what is, you will be able to reframe your reaction to the change (“This could be an exciting opportunity”) and adapt more successfully to shifting conditions.

To get out of a reactive state and get into a state of mindfulness, take these steps:

  • Feel your feet on the ground or rub the palms of your hands together. The idea here is to bring you out of your feelings and thoughts and back into your body.
  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath, inhaling to the count of three (1, 2, 3).
  • Slowly exhale for twice as long, to the count of six (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).
  • Repeat the inhalation/exhalation two more times.

You don’t need to be a yogi to practice mindfulness. For example, my granddaughter, Hannah, teaches music. She recently used the steps above to get a classroom of rowdy, eighth-grade boys to settle into learning and it worked like a charm. If eighth grade boys can become mindful, anybody can!

The Second Powerful Practice: Curiosity

Change takes us into unfamiliar territory, and not knowing increases our anxiety. What can you do to survive and thrive when you’re faced with the unknown? Research tells us that curiosity plays a fundamental role in successfully adapting to change.  In this context, here’s what we mean by curiosity:

Curiosity is a desire to seek information about a change to better understand it, reduce the fear of the unknown, and look for the opportunities it brings.

To stimulate your curiosity, start by asking: “What am I feeling? What am I thinking?” so you can make a choice about what you’re going to do instead of simply reacting to the change. Notice when you’re digging your heels in and thinking, “That’s it. This is horrible.” Take this opportunity to be curious and open-minded by asking, “Hmm, I wonder what’s possible now?

Cultivate curiosity about the change itself. Who is it affecting? What, exactly, is happening? When is it happening? Where is it happening? Gaining knowledge about a subject can often make it less daunting.

Get curious about solutions and positive responses. Who can help you and others with the change? What can you do to help? How might you think about this situation differently?

The story of hotel executive André van Hall is an uplifting example of how one man harnessed the power of curiosity to adapt to a frightening change. In 2011, André began to lose sight in one eye. Over the next several years, his condition progressed to near-total blindness. Rather than reacting by saying, “That’s it. My life is over,” André cultivated curiosity about his condition and began to ask questions. “How will I function as a blind man?” he wondered. “How will I get to work without driving a car? For that matter, how will I get my work done?”

André reached out for resources and advice. He discovered and embraced speech-based computer technology. He and his wife moved to Denver, so he could easily access Denver’s urban transportation system. He learned how to use a cane. He researched organizations that offer guide dogs and was matched with his beloved guide dog, Pelham. André—who now calls himself a Professional Speaker and Curiosity Instigator, sums it up this way: “Instead of simply continuing with life, my curiosity pushed me to flourish!”

By practicing mindfulness and curiosity, you can adapt to whatever changes life throws your way. Keep your eye on this space for Part 2 of this blog series, when I’ll discuss the other two powerful practices for adapting to change: courage and resilience.